A change to the Workplace Relations Bill today is a big win for on-farm safety and biosecurity, says Federated Farmers.

The change is that while unions have the right to enter worksites where union members are covered by, or bargaining for, a collective agreement, they need consent from employers in all other circumstances.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said that before the Feds got involved in the process the proposed Bill removed the need for union representatives to notify the employer and seek their permission.

"I think we can pat ourselves on the back a bit here. What appears to be coming through looks okay.


"We were against what was proposed. Farms are big businesses and it's dangerous to have people crawling over farms where the farmer manager and employees don't know they're there. Let alone the biosecurity risk these unexpected visitors could pose - we do exist during the fight against Mycoplasma bovis. Does the Government want to risk that battle?"

Lewis said general farm work was time sensitive and it was not necessarily appropriate or possible for farmers to be able to allow work to stop so employees could talk to union workers at any time ... "Think milking cows or shearing sheep."

Lewis said there was also the risk of someone you didn't know turning up and claiming they were a union official when they might not be.

"Rural crime prevention is seriously under resourced and while it's like that why should farmers give open access to their businesses to people they may be unfamiliar with in what often is also their family homes?

"While farms are workplaces they are also homes and it's common courtesy to give a farmer a heads up before coming on the farm.

"Although, we do agree that farmers, or any business owners, should not be able to unreasonably restrict access."

Lewis acknowledged the Government's work on this Bill and thanked them for working with the advocacy organisation to address its concerns.

"This is a big win for Feds advocacy."


New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said changes made to the controversial Workplace Relations Bill gave small business a "fair go".

The bill, which was supported by all three Government partners at first reading, has been the subject of horse-trading between Labour and New Zealand First since it returned from a select committee with few material changes in September.

At that time Peters described it as a work in progress but today the bill was back before Parliament, with changes outlined by Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway in supplementary order paper.

Another change was around the multi-employer collective agreement (Meca) provisions.

Employers had a responsibility to enter into bargaining but were not compelled to settle an agreement, based on reasonable grounds.